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Fight Against Radon

Just because you can’t see or smell radon doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. Radon ranks second to smoking in causing lung cancer deaths. And this colorless, odorless gas kills nearly 100 times more people every year than carbon monoxide. It is estimated to cause 15,000 to 21,000 lung cancer deaths in this country annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What is radon?
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. It comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and is released into the air we breathe. Radon is found all over the United States—in buildings, homes, offices, and schools--and can reach drastically high levels.

Why is radon a risk to human health?
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that become trapped in your lungs when you breathe. This may lead to lung tissue damage and, eventually, to lung cancer, over the course of a lifetime. Not all persons exposed to elevated radon levels will develop lung cancer, and the amount of time between exposure and onset of disease may be years.

Smoking combined with radon exposure poses an especially serious health risk. The chance of getting lung cancer from radon depends on:

  • How much radon is in your home
  • The amount of time you spend in your home
  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked

How does radon get into homes?
Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Typically, radon moves up through the ground to the air above and into homes through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon, where it can build up once inside. Homes of any age and construction can have radon.

Testing for radon. 
Testing for radon is inexpensive, easy, and the only way to know if you and your family are at risk of exposure. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon. The EPA also recommends that schools be tested. Tests are available for purchase at some hardware stores, through online retailers, or residents of Douglas County can receive a low-cost test kit through the Nevada Radon Education Program/ residents of California can purchase the through the California Department of Public Health.

A radon problem can be fixed. 
There are simple ways to fix a radon problem that are not too costly and even very high levels of radon can be reduced to acceptable levels. Refer to these list of resources for more information, how to order a kit and for a list of contractors.

Radon Maps 
The California Geological Survey completed in April, 2009 shows that South Lake Tahoe has high areas of exposure to radon:


Barton Health’s 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment showed a higher level of lung cancer in the South Lake Tahoe area than the California state average.

To help avoid lung cancer, get your home tested for Radon, do not smoke and see your doctor on a regular basis. For a list of physicians, visit www.bartonhealth.org/physicians.